Gender Equality Progress A Bright Spot In U.N. Climate Negotiations


WARSAW, POLAND — While there are several sticking points to reaching a broader agreement at the U.N. climate talks in Warsaw, one track of negotiations is pushing ahead: gender equality and climate change. Implementing a stronger commitment to the inclusion of women in climate policy and the U.N. climate negotiations process is a bright spot at the talks in Warsaw.

Negotiators are developing gender-responsive policy that ups the ante from last year’s negotiations in Doha, where goals for the explicit inclusion of women in decision-making were first adopted.

The Warsaw text calls for increased participation of women in the delegations of countries using U.N. money to fund conference participation, and encourages the development of additional tools and strategies to ensure implementation of gender-sensitive climate policies. The text also draws attention to the latest report from the Secretariat, which shows that inclusion of women in UNFCCC bodies is below 30 percent — in some cases, as low as 11 or 12 percent.

Women aren’t just disproportionately represented in climate negotiations. Women and girls account for six out of every ten of the world’s poorest citizens, yet women hold just 18 percent of parliamentary seats worldwide.

In addition to making the conversation more inclusive, advocates have emphasized the need to expand its gender-inclusive substance. Gender-sensitive climate policies recognize that women are disproportionately impacted by climate change impacts and have an important role to play in solving it.

These topics and more were discussed by a group of former world leaders — all women — at a forum on Tuesday, “Gender Day” at the climate talks. Though there’s much to do to align gender equality ideals with the realities experienced by women around the world, UNFCCC Secretariat Christiana Figueres said that Tuesday was a day for dreaming up a bright future. Leaders need to “imagine the future and imagine it with passion,” former President of Ireland Mary Robinson added. More, “we need to imagine it in a very positive, creative and getting-there sense.”

One example of work being done to get there is the U.S. Department of State’s Partnership on Women’s Entrepreneurship in Renewables (wPOWER), which works to support over 8,000 women entrepreneurs in East Africa, Nigeria, and India in bringing clean energy access to their communities. The State Department announced Tuesday that it is scaling up the program, launching a hub for sustainable energy entrepreneurship training at the University of Kenya, Nairobi, and partnering with two more organizations in Nigeria and Kenya.

Jesse Vogel is a senior at Oberlin College and former intern with the Center for American Progress. He will be in Warsaw all week, covering the climate talks for Climate Progress.